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  • Stiff

    My horse is somewhat stiff around corners and circles in terms of bending. I was wondering if anyone had some suppling exercises or other recommendations? I'm also going to get a chiro out but this will be helpful as well. Thanks!
  • Original Poster



    • #3
      There are lots of factors that could contribute to being stiff. Age, pain, experience, etc. So it's hard to give advice without knowing more details but I'll take a stab...

      If your horse is weak...

      Try a nice long walk warmup. But don't just go 'round 'n 'round the arena. Do lots of serpantines, flexions, counter flexions, circles, etc. Work on getting your horse to engage the shoulder and the hindquarters. I've found that walking over cavaletti and groups of poles helps engage the stifle and stengthen it. I have been working on strengthening my mare's hind end, and she really enjoys a 30 minute walk warm up no. It makes the trot and the canter much easier for her because her muscle groups are warm and relaxed. If I can I try to start out in a pasture or going up/ down hills so she is naturally more engaged at the walk and it doesn't seem as much like work.

      If your horse has some pain...

      Work on a nice loopy rein til they've loosened up completely, then work on the bending/ flexion. I have an 18y/o with plenty of stiffness and she works best if she has gone around W/T/C on a loopy rein before I pick her up and put her to work.

      If you're riding ineffectively...

      Put 4 or 5 trot poles in a fan shape; roughly 3' apart on the close ends, and 9' apart at the far ends. You will be able to tell very quickly if you are using your aids effectively. Your horse won't be able to go through the poles with a balanced ride. If you find that your horse is popping it's shoulder out or swinning haunches out, make sure you are strong enough in your outside rein and leg. Likewise if they're falling to the inside. Spiral in so that you have a nice collected trot towards the 3' side and spiral out and you can have a nice forward trot on the outside ends.

      there are plenty of other things you can try. if you can give some more details, you might get more responses. I'm sure there would be lots of great advice on the dressage forum as well! Good Luck!


      • Original Poster

        Thank you! I think it's a bit of combination of all three of those things. Mainly him being weak.


        • #5
          Agree with staying off the rail. Circles, serpentines, all that good stuff. Make sure you are using ALL your aids (not just hauling on the inside rein with no help from your legs).

          Do lots of lateral work, at the walk, trot and canter. Leg yield, shoulder in, haunches in. Counter bend. Counter bend on a circle while leg yielding in, making the circle smaller and smaller. Then, change to correct bend and push the circle out. All of that type of stuff should get your horse more supple and also get him properly on the aids and listening.

          Also, be sure you and/or your horse isn't hanging on one rein or the other or both. Or he isn't bulging into one leg or the other. He should be light in both reins (as should you) and light and responsive off of both legs. May need a little remedial schooling to get that happening.

          And, out of the tack, I am a WAY bigger fan of massage than I am of chiro, especially if the horse is body stiff and sore. I can usually tell my horse is due for a massage when he starts to lose his suppleness. A massage turns him back into a noodle! I've never gotten a lot of benefit (especially long lasting) from chiro work.


          • #6
            my 14 year old jumper was very stiff, much like this. I started putting him in a Back On Track blanket for about half an hour before every ride and he improved greatly!! He also gets is on for about an hour after every ride...It worked like magic for him


            • Original Poster

              ^ what do those do, exactly?


              • #8
                Supposedly encourage blood flow, which I guess should help keep muscles warm and supple. My horse wears one a lot. I have no idea if it actually helps, because he has ALWAYS worn one. Some of my boarders have recently started using them, and they swear their horses are better in them.


                • #9
                  if he's stiff because of pain, definitely try the Back on Track blanket if you can spend the $$. I got the saddle pad on tack of the day and even that made a difference. Especially on my 18 y/o mare, it works wonders!